Modern Retailing: What You Need to Know
There have been many articles about how the pandemic made dealerships take a digital leap forward in 2020. For most dealerships, this means they added digital retailing tools to their websites. Did anything else change?
Surprisingly, not much. In most cases, dealerships haven’t changed their sales processes to adapt to technology and changing customer behavior. They’re still pushing the in-store appointment, ignoring online leads and offers and trying to get customers to follow the path they want them to take.
By resisting change, dealers are making it harder for customers to do business with them. Doing business the old way is pushing customers away. When OEMs get the green light to directly sell cars, the dealers who don’t adapt will be out of business in an instant.
The business has completely changed and dealers have to change with it. Plugging in digital retailing tools and marketing your digital sales process doesn’t cut it. You have to shift your mindset and processes to serve customers in a virtual world and follow their lead for how they want to purchase a vehicle.
Industry expert Ron Frey calls this marriage of technology and process "modern retailing." As he explained in an Automotive News article, a dealer using the modern retailing approach would first envision the type of customer experience they want to offer, install the technology to support that experience, then change the organizational structure if necessary to implement it.
There’s a lot to unpack, so in this blog we'll focus on how you can change your internal sales processes to implement the customer experience you want.
Get involved from the beginning
First, let’s look at the traditional road to a sale. The customer comes in and meets with the salesperson. Then they take a test drive and haggle over the price. After all of that, the salesperson may make the sale.
Today, the road has to start sooner. The salesperson needs to be involved from the very beginning of the internet lead. Every lead has to be worked as a deal — because in reality, it may be.
Become a trusted consultant
The attitude toward the customer has to change too. Instead of a sale at any cost, salespeople must have a customer-centric attitude that reflects “I’m here to help, no matter the outcome.” Remember: customers can find all the vehicle details online. They know the price and what your competition is offering, so they won’t stand for the hard sell.
What they want is a consultant. A salesperson who can answer every question, has a great personality and is completely focused on helping customers find the best solution — whether that means they buy a car today or not. A customer in the market is going to buy a car. Becoming a trusted consultant makes it 100x more likely they will buy one from you.
Changing expectations from making the sale at any cost to delivering a great customer experience is a huge shift. The fastest way to get salespeople onboard the new road to a sale is by changing pay plans. Tweak pay plans to base part of their pay on CSI, customer surveys and customer retention.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it — it will be a challenge and you will lose good people. But with buy-in from owners and managers, salespeople will either adapt and enjoy the ride or go somewhere else.
Your competition is just a click away. Beginning the shift toward modern retailing by changing the sales process from sale-at-any-cost to trusted consultant is the way to win today’s customers.